Navy flagship LÉ Eithne departs Cork after Covid-19 deployment

The navy's flagship left Cork city this morning after finishing her deployment on Covid-19 operations.
Navy flagship LÉ Eithne departs Cork after Covid-19 deployment
The LÉ Eithne (P31) got a blue light send off at the Port of Cork, as operation Fortitude, part of Ireland's response to the coronavirus pandemic, comes to the end, and the ship returns to the Naval base at Haulbowline. Picture: Dan Linehan

The navy's flagship left Cork city this morning after finishing her deployment on Covid-19 operations.

LÉ Eithne and her crew were given a rousing send-off with sirens and flashing lights provided by emergency service vehicles as she and her crew, under the captaincy of Commander Caoimhín Mac Unfraidh, cast off from Albert Quay on the way back to Naval Service headquarters at Haulbowline Island.

The ship was taken off operations a year ago because of the manpower crisis in the Naval Service. However, she was brought back on operations on March 20 as part of the Defence Forces response to the pandemic.

This was only made possible because a number of Naval Service reservists from Cork and Waterford volunteered to help man the ship.

Initially, it was feared that the pandemic would swamp the health services and mortuaries in the region wouldn't be able to cope with the body count.

The ship was supposed to provide that space if the worst happened which, thankfully, it didn't.

She was also put on standby to be used as a Covid-19 testing centre, as was the case for other Naval Service ships, which were dispatched to Dublin and Galway.

However, the need for that didn't materialise after the HSE decided to use Páirc Uí Chaoimh as its largest testing centre in the region.

In the meantime, the crew have been providing logistical support for the HSE on a number of levels.

On deck of the LÉ Eithne were Dr. Orla Healy, HSE South, South West; Commander Caoimhín McHumphrigh; Eddie Mulligan of the Irish Naval Service Reserve; piper Pat McCarthy, Ambulance Service; Gerry O’Dwyer, chief executive, South West Hospital Group; Peter Daly, project manager, Covid-19; Lt Col Damien Coakley and Barry McPolin; chief superintendent and members of the emergency services.
On deck of the LÉ Eithne were Dr. Orla Healy, HSE South, South West; Commander Caoimhín McHumphrigh; Eddie Mulligan of the Irish Naval Service Reserve; piper Pat McCarthy, Ambulance Service; Gerry O’Dwyer, chief executive, South West Hospital Group; Peter Daly, project manager, Covid-19; Lt Col Damien Coakley and Barry McPolin; chief superintendent and members of the emergency services.

These included storing and distributing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to health workers, providing training to people in the maritime industry, HSE and the Gardaí on how to use facemasks properly to avoid the risk of infection.

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